Would you drive your car with your eyes closed? It’s just as hard to imagine planting your wildlife orchard without knowing the quality of your soil.
Soil is what gives plants and trees the necessary nutrients to grow. If you don’t test the soil, you are blind to how your plants can grow and what they need to thrive. Some plants prefer rich soils while others like poorer ones. Some trees like acidic soils but others prefer alkaline ones.
Soil testing will also tell you a lot about the chemical composition of the soil so you know how much and how often to fertilize. You want to reach an optimal fertilizing balance to help your wildlife orchard grow without spending unnecessary money on fertilizers.
In addition, soil testing will give you healthier trees and better crops. The whole point of planting a deer-preferred orchard is to attract deer. Deer like to eat the crops in your orchard, so you need heavy crops of pears, apples, plums, persimmons, and oaks in order to keep your deer population on your land.
What Does Soil Testing Entail?
Soil analysis is performed by taking several soil samples from your land and testing them. You want to determine the chemical, physical, and biological properties of your land to assess what kinds of trees you can successfully plant.
Chemical Soil Analysis
Typically, there are five elements you want to test your soil for: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), Magnesium (Mg), and Calcium (Ca). Each of these chemicals contributes in a different way to the plants’ well-being. Together, they help plants grow, photosynthesize, grow leaves, blossom, and produce crops.
- Nitrogen is essential for plant growth and photosynthesis. Too much nitrogen means you have many leaves but a poor crop. Too little nitrogen and your trees are smaller, your crop is smaller in size and quantity, and the overall look of your trees is poor.
- Phosphorus is essential for young plants to grow. Too little phosphorus slows their growth while too much leads to discolored leaves.
- Potassium helps plants absorb water and photosynthesize. It also assists in the transportation of nutrients around the plant. Too much potassium slows the plant’s growth and lowers fruit yield. Too little potassium and the plant looks wilted and dries up fast, particularly in hot weather, because it can’t keep enough water to cool itself down.
- Calcium helps plants grow and activates cellular growth and transportability. Too much calcium gives yellow leaves and hinders the uptake of iron from the soil. Too little calcium and the plant looks small and can’t grow its young buds properly.
- Finally, magnesium helps with chlorophyll development. Chlorophyll gives plants and trees their green color. Too much magnesium gives deep-dark green leaves but inhibits the uptake of calcium from the soil. Too little magnesium turns leaves yellow and stunts the tree’s growth.
Physical analysis checks the soil’s consistency. Specifically, it tests whether it’s clay, sand, or silt. It also determines the soil’s color, porosity, and ability to hold water.
This matters because, for example, free-draining soil won’t hold water while clay soil can create muddy conditions that some trees dislike—but others love.
Soil texture also matters because it tells us how much air circulates in the soil. Soil that is too compacted has little air, so roots may find it difficult to grow there.
Analyzing soil texture is important because it offers invaluable clues about the soil’s reaction to fertilization. For example, if the soil absorbs nutrients readily, fertilization will be successful and plants will benefit greatly from the extra nutrients and chemicals available to them.
Biological analysis tells you a lot about organic matter, how rich the soil is, its humus content, and the general health of the soil. Ideally, you want soil that is packed with the kinds of microorganisms that are necessary for plants to grow. Such microorganisms will aerate the soil, enrich it, and deposit precious nutrients.
Remember that soil is buzzing with life. Your soil test will tell you how healthy your soil micro-life is.
PH tests how acidic or alkaline your soil is. On a scale of 0 to 14, 0-7 is acidic soil and 7-14 is alkaline. Many berries, such as blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, and the American Beautyberry prefer slightly acidic soil. Some oaks and apple trees like alkaline soils.
Quite a few trees, bushes, and plants will happily grow equally well in slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soil. Some deer-preferred trees, however, have more particular soil demands, so you’d better check your soil before planting them.
Testing for Heavy Metals and Pesticides
You want your land soil to be clean of heavy metals and pesticides. A thorough soil test will identify any heavy metal presence. You certainly don’t want to grow crops, trees, and plants in contaminated soil!
Older orchards tend to have more arsenic and lead locked inside the soil because pesticides and insecticides used to contain these two heavy metals. Sadly, it takes years for them to disintegrate and wash off.
Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium as well as pesticides and toxic components can be easily absorbed by plants through the root system. Dangerous contaminants can be breathed in or ingested. It’s best to be on the safe side before you start working, digging, and planting on your land.
Why Do I Need to Test My Land?
Once you know how to collect soil samples from your property, soil analysis gives you precious clues about your soil’s health. You want to test your soil for several reasons.
There are two things that you need to know before you start choosing plants and trees for your deer orchard: your hardiness zone and soil quality. These will determine which plants can grow on your land.
It’s counterproductive—and expensive—to plant trees that won’t perform on your land. You will be spending money again and again because your trees will die. If you want your hard-earned money to bring in results, you must check the quality and type of soil of your land. This way, you will be better placed to choose the right trees for your land.
Avoid Over Fertilizing
One of the most common mistakes people make is overfertilizing their land. Apart from the obvious unnecessary expense, over fertilizing risks damaging your trees and the soil. Using too much nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorus can bring the opposite results of what you want.
Over Fertilizing means you are spending money on something you don’t need and risking the health of your soil. It’s just not worth it.
Avoid Soil Degradation
You want your deer-preferred orchard to deliver results for years to come. With the right soil testing, you will assess the health of your land’s soil and amend it to help it grow crops and bring in deer. Be careful not to degrade the soil beyond its capacity. By amending the right amount of nutrients, you will be helping your soil grow healthy trees.
Here at Wildtree.co, you can find trees and shrubs specifically selected and bred for wildlife in our shop every day. We offer free shipping on all orders and a 10% discount on orders over $1,000. Get 40% off when you pick up your order. Call now 832-400-5978 or contact Wildtree online to find out which plants are best suited to your soil and get started on your deer project!